Students demand release of Shimla Park report

A small group of protestors requested that UFS management suspend the Varsity Cup match between the Shimlas and Ikey Tigers in order to make a public announcement regarding the Shimla Park Report. PHOTO: VAN ZYL NAUDE

Students from the Free Education Movement (FEM) would like the University of the Free State to publish the Shimla Park Report. It will be a full year on 22 February since the scenes of a violent clash between spectators and protesters were witnessed at Shimla Park during a Varsity Cup rugby match between the UFS Shimlas as well as the NMMU Madibas.

A spate of other incidents followed, including the removal of the CR Swart statue on the UFS’s Bloemfontein campus. Several students were subsequently arrested. A commission of enquiry was thereafter established to investigate the events leading up to, during, and after the Shimla Park incident.

This past Monday saw UFS host UCT’s Ikey Tigers in the first Varsity Cup rugby match at Shimla Park since last year’s incident. A small group of students from FEM marched towards Shimla Park and threatened to disrupt the match 10 minutes before it was scheduled to end.

The university said it has sent the report to student leaders in a statement issued on Tuesday. The South African Students Congress’ (Sasco) stance on the release of the report is also that it be issued.

Sasco Branch Secretary, Tumelo Rapitsi, told Bloemfontein Courant that it is vital that its recommendations be adopted and implemented by the institution. “If we accept the report and the recommendations of the report, we are opening ourselves up for a discussion where we will be able to create a dialogue where we come up with ways in which we can amicably resolve conflict on this campus among the different stakeholders.”

Rapitsi said the university should not dispute the document’s contents because it contains factual evidence. “If the university refuses to accept the recommendations of the report and wants to continue to poke holes, then we are still going to have serious challenges in resolving issues of the institution,” he added.

The group of FEM students was addressed by Acting Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Nicky Morgan, who said UFS management had offered to meet with the group’s leadership about the involvement of students in the proposed actions and implementation of recommendations mentioned in the report, as well as other transformation interventions at the university.

The report’s investigations were conducted by an independent panel led by former Constitutional Court Justice, Johann van der Westhuizen, National Prosecution Authority (NPA) advocate, Phoebe Labuschagne, and Legal Resources Centre Lawer, Molebogeng Kekana. – Moeketsi Mogotsi & Christal-lize Muller